Another person died from a new strain of bird flu in China on Friday, state media said, bringing to 11 the number of deaths from the H7N9 virus.
The latest victim was in the commercial hub of Shanghai, where two new cases were confirmed on Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported. A total of 40 infections have been reported so far – all in eastern China.
A separate Xinhua report said three cases of H7N9 bird flu infection had been confirmed on Friday in Zhejiang province, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 43 - all in eastern China.
The source of infection remains unknown, though samples have tested positive in some birds in poultry markets that remain the focus of investigations by China and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The new virus has been severe in most of the people affected, leading to fears that if it becomes easily transmissible, it could cause a deadly influenza pandemic, though there has been no indication of that happening.
In a bid to calm public jitters over the virus, Chinese authorities have detained a dozen people for spreading rumours about the spread of bird flu.
China first began reporting cases of the new virus on March 31 and has ordered preventative and containment measures. Shanghai, the epicentre of the outbreak, has ordered residents to watch for high fevers, breathing difficulties and other symptoms.
Hospitals have set up fever clinics to deal with those who show up with flu-like symptoms.
Many of these measures were enacted following China’s 2003 Sars outbreak, when authorities were faulted for a poor response.
China has been more open in its response to the new virus than it was a decade ago with an outbreak of Sars, when authorities were highly criticised.